Beijing has announced to allow a selective group of families a second child. On February 21, it was announced that couples are entitled to have a second child, if one of the parents is a single child. Previously, couples were only allowed to expand their families if both parents were a single child.
The amendment in the Beijing Population and Family Planning Regulations comes as a surprise to couples who wish to have a second child. In the past 18 years, the average fertility rate in Beijing has been floating at a steady one birth per woman, which is lower than the national average of 1.5. Reports state that around 10 million couples will receive the benefit of Beijing’s new family planning policy, allowing couples to consider adding a second child to their family. A survey has shown that 74 percent of couples with an income higher than $3,298 per month are seriously considering the new opportunity. The majority of couples earning less than $2,000 per month have stated not wanting to benefit from the new family planning policy.
Now that Beijing has allowed families a second child, the population of China’s capital will grow. Geng Yutian, deputy head of the Municipal Health and Family Planning Commission, says, “We have forecasted that about 54,200 people will be added to Beijing’s population annually in the coming five years. In the years after that, this number will be around 40,000 per year. In the short-term, it poses a pressure on kindergartens and primary schools.” The city government has stated that it will support couples by improving hospitals, nurseries and primary schools as well as women’s right for maternity leave. The new family planning policy comes with a new condition. A four-year gap between the first and second child is required if the mother is younger than 28 years old; however, families are happy to see that the policy has been relaxed for the first time in 30 years.
Beijing is not the only city in China that is moving away from the one-child policy. Zhejiang, Jiangxi and Anhui provinces all allow couples to have a second child. Experts say that other areas of China will follow and numerous cities and provinces have promised to amend their family planning policy either in spring or summer of this year. Experts; however, expect that couples living outside of the big cities will benefit from the amended policy more, as raising a child in a developed city like Beijing comes with high costs of living. Even the 74 percent of high earners, who stated to consider having a second child, could potentially move away from the consideration after realizing the effects on standard of living.
The amendment in the Beijing Population and Family Planning Regulations is greatly welcomed by families who have lost their first child and were previously not allowed to have a second child. The Family Planning Commission has stated that these couples have precedence. Huang Wenzheng, population scholar, says the new family planning policy is a first step in the reform of China, but that is has significant impact on social expectations and influences.
By Diana Herst